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Deauville Hotel Management, LLC v. Ward

Florida Court of Appeals, Third District

May 31, 2017

Deauville Hotel Management, LLC d/b/a Deauville Beach Resort, Appellant,
Kemesia Boota Ward and Patrick James Ward, Appellees.

         Not final until disposition of timely filed motion for rehearing.

         An Appeal from the Circuit Court for Miami-Dade County Lower Tribunal No. 10-63383, Norma S. Lindsey, Judge.

          Billbrough & Marks, P.A. and Geoffrey B. Marks, for appellant.

          Faudlin Pierre, for appellees.

          Before LOGUE, SCALES, and LUCK, JJ.

          LUCK, J.

         "Chapel of Love, " the tune made famous by the Dixie Cups, celebrates how a couple's wedding day should feel like "Spring is here, the sky is blue/Birds all sing as if they knew . . . Bells will ring, the sun will shine, I'll be his and he'll be mine." The Dixie Cups, Chapel of Love (Red Bird Records 1964). The birds, however, did not sing and the bells did not ring on Kemesia Boota Ward's wedding day. The hotel ballroom where she planned to have her wedding reception was closed by the city of Miami Beach, and the hotel moved the reception to its lobby. Ward's wedding day was "ruined, " a "public spectacle, " "cramped, " and "very uncomfortable, " and caused her to be "embarrassed, " "cry[] uncontrollably, " and have "nightmares." As a result, Ward and her husband, Patrick James Ward, sued the hotel that hosted and catered the wedding, Deauville Hotel Management, LLC, for breach of contract and intentional infliction of emotional distress.[1] The jury, after a five day trial, found for the couple on both claims and awarded Ward $23, 000 and her husband $2, 500 on their breach of contract claims, and the couple $5, 000 for intentional infliction of emotional distress. The hotel contends on appeal that it did not breach the contract because it did not promise a specific location for the wedding within the hotel, the jury awarded more breach of contract damages than the facts supported, and its conduct was not outrageous enough for an intentional infliction of emotional distress claim. After reviewing the briefs, and with the benefit of oral argument, we affirm in part and reverse in part.

         Factual Background and Procedural History

         On February 17, 2010, Ward signed the contract with Deauville to hold her wedding reception in the hotel's Richelieu ballroom on July 9, 2010. The contract did not specify in which room or area of the hotel the wedding would be held and, instead, referred to the "function space." The contract further stated that:

Function space is assigned, and reassigned if needed, to accommodate both the GROUP and all other parties who are using the HOTEL facilities during the GROUP'S event dates. THE GROUP agrees to promptly notify the HOTEL of any changes in function space requirements and/or attendance.

         The contract also contained the following provision regarding the hotel's cancellation policy:

HOTEL'S CANCELLATION: If Hotel cancels this Agreement or is unable to provide the requested space, the Hotel will work with Group to arrange alternative space at the prices set forth herein. Hotel will arrange for comparable space in the same vicinity of the Hotel and shall provide, without charge, necessary transportation between the alternative site and the Hotel. Hotel's liability is limited to these remedies, and Hotel shall not be liable for any consequential, punitive or special damages.

         Nine days before the Wards' wedding, on June 30, 2010, the city of Miami Beach red-tagged (i.e., shut down) the hotel's three ballrooms, including the Richelieu, as unsafe and in violation of certain building codes.[2] Deauville did not inform the Wards of the shut down and, instead, staff was instructed to continue the preparations for the reception as planned. Meanwhile, Deauville attempted to have the red-tag removed. The next day after the city closed the ballrooms, the hotel sent a facsimile to the city's building department requesting a ninety-day extension of time for compliance. The extension was denied. On July 8, the day before the wedding, the hotel filed an emergency motion for temporary injunction against the city to allow access to the ballrooms. The hotel was again unsuccessful in its attempts to have the ballrooms reopened. Finally, an emergency inspection was conducted on the day of the wedding, but because no repairs had been made, the ballroom remained closed.

         The Wards learned of the shutdown hours before their wedding on July 9. While the Wards were married in a ceremony off-site, the Deauville moved the reception to the "Napoleon Pre-function area, " which is what the hotel called its lobby. The lobby, unlike the Richelieu ballroom, was too small for the 190 guests; the tables were "crammed" in the space; there was no privacy for the event; the disc jockey playing music was told numerous times to lower the volume; and hotel guests were walking through the wedding reception (some in their bathing suits) and participating in the reception (clapping during the introduction of the wedding party).

         For ruining their wedding, the Wards sued the hotel for breach of contract (as to Ward), breach of a third-party beneficiary contract (as to her husband), and intentional infliction of emotional distress. The jury found in favor of Ward on her breach of contract claim, and awarded her $23, 000 in compensatory damages. The jury also found that Ward's husband was a third-party beneficiary to the contract and suffered damages in the amount of $2, 500. With respect to the intentional infliction of emotional distress claim, the jury found that the hotel engaged in extreme and outrageous conduct and awarded damages ...

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